Sunday, January 22, 2012


Bringing Up Baby is our second movie in this Howard Hawks double bill. An immensely enjoyable screwball comedy, it just goes to show what a versatile and talented director Howard Hawks was. Filling his oeuvre with so many classics, from the 1932 Scarface to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring the lovely Marylin Monroe and Jane Russell. Now we go from Rio Bravo, made in the late 1950's to one of his earlier efforts. While both movies are now considered masterpieces, unlike Rio Bravo, Bringing Up Baby was a commercial failure. 

In Bringing Up Baby, we follow David Huxley (Cary Grant) who has been trying to get hold of the last bone for his Brontosaurus skeleton which he's been trying to assemble for the last four years. He is about to marry Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker), a stern, boring woman who won't even let their honeymoon get in the way of David's work and his attempt to impress a Mrs. Random (May Robson) who has intentions of donating a million dollars to the museum he works for. On that same day David meets Susan Vance. From the get-go things go wrong, she putts his ball on the golf-course, then proceeds to drive away in his car instead of her own. It is obvious that while she's a stunning beauty, she's also a terrible klutz who not only gets herself into trouble but all of those around her. Misunderstanding Davids profession, she practically forces him to help her take care "Baby", a leopard that she's supposed to give to her aunt. They go to her house in Connecticut and as you might expect, all sorts of misunderstandings and mishaps occur, causing the flaky Susan to fall in love with the awkward David.

Boy, could I ever have a wrong perception of actors. Because of their huge star-quality and dignified status, I always assumed that Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant were big serious actors. I'd never seen a movie with either of them in before and the image I had of them was so wrong! I expected Cary Grant to be like Clark Gable, or more precisely, Rhett Butler. And because Katherine Hepburn is always talked about in terms of outspokenness, strong character and her roles as powerful, sophisticated women, I assumed a certain infallibility and coldness. But both we're so charming, silly and loveable in this movie. Immediately I took to the characters. The stumbling, awkward David reminded me very much of Ross in Friends, another geeky paleontologist who's unassuming charms have a real effect on the women around them. And to stick with the Friends comparisons, Susan is not unlike Phoebe. Both are a bit crazy, silly, get into weird situations but always seem to see the fun of it and their enthusiasm is infectious. It's interesting to think of this movie as a look into how things might have been if Ross and Phoebe had gotten together.

Bringing Up Baby is a movie full of absolutely hilarious scenes, there's not many movies I've laughed out loud at more than this one. Nearly every shot lends itself to another joke. It's full of physical, visual and verbal comedy, lending itself to a very iconic scene where most likely for the first time the word "gay" is used in the way it is used today. The performances are excellent. Grant and Hepburn deliver their lines with such crispness and their acting is so vivid you nearly forget you're watching this movie in black and white. Of course I wouldn't want to see it in colour, the fact that it is in black and white not only transports you back into time but makes it a visually stunning movie. Bringing Up Baby is a must-see for anyone who likes a romantic comedy, slapstick or just likes a laugh really. I don't know why it was such a box-office failure in the first place, but I think it's fifteenth place in the American Film Institutes list of the hundred funniest films of all time is more than deserved. Make sure you see it!

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